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Modernisation of licensing laws heralds new era

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Modernisation of the Island’s liquor licensing regime is now in sight, following the final passage of the landmark Liquor Licensing and Public Entertainments Bill 2021 through parliament. 

The wide-ranging reform bill had its final reading in the House of Keys this week (Tuesday 29 June) heralding a new era of opportunity for the hospitality sector and a potential expansion of the Island’s vibrant social life.  

The Bill provides the first major reform in 25 years of alcohol licensing and music, dancing and other public entertainments. The new regime aims to meet the future needs of the hospitality sector and improve industry standards, while preventing crime and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the public. The proposals won wide support during two extensive public consultations, with ideas from the Licensing Forum, community groups and members of the public being fed into the final Bill.   

Minister for the Department of Justice and Home Affairs Graham Cregeen said:

‘New licensing legislation is long overdue, so I’m delighted that we now have a modern, fit-for-purpose regime which will provide for the needs of everyone with an interest in licensing law – our established  licensed traders, new start-up businesses, community groups, customers and members of the public. 

‘The Bill addresses issues which matter greatly to our economy and community, and the range of input to the two rounds of consultation was excellent. I am grateful to the Licensing Forum, the industry and the many interested parties who shared their views with us, to help ensure firm footings for our new regime. 

The Minister added:

‘The new regime is designed to be future-proof, so it can provide for the growing diversity of community and social events our talented providers and entrepreneurs wish to offer and the public are keen to enjoy. The Department and Licensing Forum formed an excellent partnership during this process and it is very satisfying that the swift passage of this Bill through parliament in less than three months means progressive new legislation will soon be on the statute book.’ 

Central to the new licensing regime are seven core objectives:

  • securing public safety
  • preventing crime and disorder
  • preventing public nuisance
  • protecting and improving public health
  • protecting children from harm
  • providing an environment in which the hospitality industry may flourish
  • promoting high standards across the hospitality industry 

The Bill will see PubWatch become a formal, managed process, allowing the sharing of information between the police and licensees in compliance with data protection legislation. It also provides powers to prevent restrictive covenants on former licensed premises being applied in future. 

Also included in the Bill is provision for certain responsibilities of the Licensing Court to be transferred to a new licensing authority, should be a model for this be agreed over time, and it enshrines a new offence of assault on staff of licensed premises. 

The Liquor Licensing and Public Entertainments Bill 2021 is ‘enabling’ legislation, providing a framework for a flexible and responsive approach to licensing, which is less bureaucratic than before – benefitting among others, Island charities who wish to host one-off licensed events. Licensing of these types of events will be the exception rather than the rule. In most cases, charitable events or venues which don’t need a licence now, including traditions such as Hunt the Wren and the Tin Bath races, will not need a licence under the new legislation. 

Work will now begin on drafting the detailed regulations which will sit beneath the Bill and there will be a further chance for everyone to comment on proposals via the government’s Consultation Hub.

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